Review: SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD highlights the human condition

by Jody Key – Managing Editor May 27, 2019

BUICEntennial Productions is a very new kid on the block. An sister company of the highly acclaimed Wallace Buice Theatre Company, their production of SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD is a treat, especially centered around this Memorial Day weekend. If you haven’t been to see the show yet, you’re missing out. Producer Taylor Buice has recruited the best of the best Atlanta has to offer and put together an intimate production at the Lyric Theatre Studio in the Square located in Marietta.

JUan Carlos Unzuets, Adrianna Trachell, Maggie Salley, and Jared Bradshaw

Written and composed by Jason Roberts Brown, this show is a montage of songs sung by characters simply called Man 1 (Juan Carlos Unzueta), Man 2 (Jared Bradshaw), Woman 1 (Maggie Salley), and Woman 2 (Adrianna Trachell). These characters play various men and women throughout time in American History starting with a Spanish sailing ship in 1492. Some numbers appear trivial and light, some are slice of life explorations of relationships, while others delve into deeper subjects of war and death in battle. The abstract musical jumps around in time and gives us glimpses of Americans from various regions and socioeconomic backgrounds. Threaded throughout the musical revue is the theme that “one moment” can upend or change a life. Even though each performer plays a variety of characters, they all have basic character traits that are interwoven through each person they portray which results in a growth and acceptance of what this New World has become for each individual. No matter who you are as an audience member, there will be something in this musical with which to identify. The music itself is vocally complex and compelling, and these four voices compliment each other exquisitely–beautifully mixed by sound designer Paul Glaze and musically decorated with a small live orchestra strategically placed to provide a “surround sound” experience in this unique and intimate space which is set up as a theater in the round.

SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD was fortunate enough to be directed and choreographed by Ricardo Aponte, one of the most sought after and hardest working people on the Atlanta theater scene, and his reputation precedes him. His vision for this show is simple, yet effective and he utilizes well the simple set designed by Zack Vandever consisting of an intricate multi-leveled platform in the center of the stage which is flanked by four very different and unique chairs connected by runners of carpet. The choreo is understated and perfectly compliments the show which relies heavily on intricate vocals.

Juan Carlos Unzueta is brilliant as Man 1 and his character typically represents the underdog, the oppressed, and the downtrodden. He’s been seen in the ATL area in IN THE HEIGHTS (Aurora Theatre) and LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST (Zero Circle Theater Company). His most powerful performances in SONGS are “King of the World”, as a man of former power who has been confined to a life in prison and “Flying Home” as a war hero who has lost his life and is caught between worlds saying goodbye to his mother and heeding the call of the angels that will escort him to his new home.

Juan Carlos Unzueta as Man 1

Jared Bradshaw is back in the ATL as Man 2 and better than ever having been most recently seen in PARADE and A BING CROSBY CHRISTMAS (Wallace Buice Theatre Company). Jared comes to us from the NYC cast of Jersey Boys, and his Broadway quality performance is a delight. His best moments as Man 2 are in “She Cries” where he laments about the power of female wiles on the male psyche and “The World Was Dancing” as a man looking back on his past and sees it as integral to the events that led up to him leaving his fiancee.

Jared Bradshaw as Man 2

Maggie Salley as Woman 1 lends her beautiful voice which is astoundingly precise, filled with passion and varying textures. Atlanta is fortunate Maggie now calls us home, as she’s wowed audiences in PARADE, BING CROSBY CHRISTMAS, NEXT TO NORMAL (Wallace Buice), and most recently, FOOTLOOSE (Theatre Buford). Highlights of her performances include “I’m not Afraid of Anything”, which is sung and acted authentically and portrays a mother and wife who struggles to understand the fears of her children and husband and “Christmas Lullaby” continues the theme of mother as she plays an expectant mother who feels a kindred bond to Mother Mary.

Maggie Salley as Woman 2

Adrianna Trachell, fresh off the successful run of Aurora’s MEN WITH MONEY commands the stage once more as Woman 2 in “Just One Step” a tragically humorous look at a wife poised to jump off the edge of her penthouse lamenting the life she’s led with her less than attentive husband. This theme continues in “Stars and Moon” with a woman who marries for money and finds herself missing out on love and also in the show-stopping “Surabaya-Santa” where she portrays Mrs. Claus and sings a hilarious song to her hubby, Nick–a selected audience member–where she complains about the lack of attention she gets as Mrs. Claus. Adrianna gives her all in this performance and if you’re one of her fans, you won’t want to miss it.

Adrianna Trachell as Woman 2

Overall, Songs for a New World is an entertaining cabaret-style show that explores and exposes the human condition. The performances are superb as is the orchestra and technical elements. This is a Key-noteworthy must see you won’t want to miss.

Songs for a New World plays until June 1st at the Lyric Theatre Studio on the Square. Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.com/o/buicentennial-productions-llc-18852746865

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